Social Entrepreneurship Didn’t Start Last Year

Barry Lenson
Social Entrepreneurship Dr. Jonas Salk, social entrepreneur, holding two bottles of his life-saving polio vaccine in 1957

If you have been reading recent articles about social entrepreneurs, you’ll be tempted to believe that they are a completely new breed of human that burst upon the scene about a decade ago. Sure, lots of today’s most noted social entrepreneurs are youthful people who think in new ways.

But social entrepreneurs have been around for a very long time – for as long, in fact, as people have been finding ways to apply business solutions to improving the quality of people’s lives.

Historical Social Entrepreneurs

Here’s my short list of great social entrepreneurs who were around long before anybody even thought of the term “social entrepreneurship” . . .

  • Jonas Salk (1914-1995) and Albert Sabin (1906-1993). Heck, these two men developed cures for Polio, which was the scourge of the world at the time. More than just researchers, they also were able to get their vaccines manufactured and distributed with astonishing speed, which saved uncounted numbers of lives. In my book, these men top the list of all-time great social entrepreneurs.
  • Henry Ford (1863-1947). I must be nuts to put Henry Ford on my list, right? I mean, old Henry actually liked Hitler for a while. Plus, his manufacturing plants weren't exactly safe or happy places for people to work. But he introduced the first mass-produced cars to America – the Model T and then the Model A – that enabled middle-class Americans to drive and experience life in a whole new way. Those cars also sparked the boom in American road-building and the growth of countless roadside businesses. So was mean, rich old Henry a social entrepreneur? You be the judge.
  • Thomas Edison (1847-1931). Edison enriched countless lives by inventing movies and phonographs.  The light bulb that he invented revolutionized the way Americans lived, and it contributed to the growth of scholarship and learning, especially among lower-class Americans. He also patented the technology that led to X-rays.  In his final years, he was developing a line of cast-concrete buildings that could be quickly erected anywhere; the goal was to provide working-class people with extremely beautiful and affordable homes. If he wasn't a social entrepreneur, I don’t know who was.
  • Arturo Toscanini (1867-1967). Toscanini, one of the greatest classical music conductors in history, could be seen as a social entrepreneur. Here’s why. He hated Fascism and even though he was the most successful conductor in Italy, he turned his back on his own country and came to the United States. Once here, he could have continued to make a lot of money by conducting concerts for well-to-do audiences. But not old Arturo. In 1937, he got NBC to create the NBC Symphony Orchestra for him, and he started to give concerts on the radio. His goal was to make classical music available to anyone who had a radio – and his plan worked.

Do You too Have a Dream to Change the World?

If you have the vision and drive to make the world a better place, here’s a way to begin making your dream a reality. It’s StraighterLine’s new Startups for Social Entrepreneurs Program.

The program consists of four courses. When you have completed them, you will earn a Social Entrepreneurship Certificate. And when you are done, you’ll know how to start and run a business that will target social, environmental or economic problems.

The cornerstone of the new Certificate program is the Venture Planning for Social Entrepreneurs course, facilitated by Dr. Kristin Joos. Dr. Joos is a powerhouse in social entrepreneurship. In 2005, she founded the Sustainability & Social Impact (ISSI) Initiative in the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation in the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida. She’s now the Director of the Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership & Sustainability High School Summer Program at the University of Florida.

In the Social Entrepreneurship Certificate program, you’ll be required to take three other courses too. They are all self-paced courses from StraighterLine: Introduction to Business (BUS101), Business Communications (BUS105), and Business Ethics (BUS106). You will earn three credit hours in each of these courses. So as you can tell, your Social Entrepreneurship Certificate will represents a significant educational accomplishment – one that will open doors for you as you raise funds to launch your enterprise, attract like-minded social entrepreneurs, and more. 

But there’s a Deadline!

You can start other StraighterLine courses whenever you want. But this program is different. Dr. Joos will begin teaching her Venture Planning for Social Entrepreneurs course on June 17th, 2013. That course ends on August 23rd. You will then have four months to finish your other three self-paced courses. But to assure that you have a seat in this program, you should sign up as soon as possible.

Is your personal dream to fight pollution, help farmers, feed children, or advance the cause of women in developing countries? Only you know how you would like to change the world. But whatever your vision may be, StraighterLine is excited to offer you the chance to take a first step on your journey. 

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